Thinking Out Loud

December 8, 2014

Mid-East Persecution Continues to Increase

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:25 am

I don’t always share the emails I get from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) but I think it’s important to raise awareness of what’s taking place, especially when bloggers are so focused on the American/Canadian church.

ACLJ Petition Dec 2014

It’s hard for me to even put this into words.

ISIS jihadists are now barbarically beheading Christian children.

The Christian Vicar of Baghdad is reporting that ISIS terrorists demanded that four children recant their faith and “say the words that you will follow Muhammad.”

These brave Christian children – all under 15 years old – refused, saying “No, we love Jesus.”

ISIS cut off their heads.

Evil.

There is no other word to describe the horror.

As people of faith, we must not allow this to continue. We must defend Christians from ISIS genocide.

Christian children are willing to face death for their faith in Christ.

We must defend them.

We demanded the Obama Administration take action, and it is, but not nearly enough.

Be heard for these persecuted Christian children.

Sign Our Petition: Stop the Genocide of Christians in Iraq.

Jay Sekulow
ACLJ Chief Counsel

December 2, 2014

Book Review: Compassion Without Compromise

Compassion Without CompromiseIn many ways, the most epic achievement a book can offer is living up to the rather grand premise of a challenging title. Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Baker Books) takes on this challenge and provides a thorough examination of the present climate in the Church and the broader culture with very different approaches in each of the ten chapters.

I tried to read this book imagining its impact on people with whom I have conversations on this topic, people who find themselves immersed in this issue because of relationships with sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers, or fellow-students; as well as a few people who are either gay themselves (both out, outed or closeted) or dealing with curiosity or confusion.

Probably some of them would say the book leans more on the side of conviction and less on the side of compassion. I’m not sure that is avoidable, given the context of the larger Christian publishing environment. What I do see however is that the heart of the authors’ intent comes through at various points and there is a solid attempt at trying to be compassionate without discounting what they see as Biblical absolutes.

Still, there are people for whom I would recommend this, even as they find they find themselves in the middle of a situation where they, or someone they know is dealing with either overt homosexuality or quiet same sex attraction. Adam Barr and Ron Citlau approach this book in their role as pastors who have counseled many people on this subject, and Ron brings the added empathy of someone who, by his own admission, was much involved in the gay sex scene before his life changed 17 years ago.

There were a couple of sections toward the end of the book I felt the authors handled very well. One was a dismissal of the argument that many of the laws in Leviticus no longer apply today, so why should we hang on to one single aspect of sexuality, when we are quick to ignore prohibitions against, for example, wearing clothing of mixed fibers? The authors point out four specific Old Testament commandments concerning sex that are repeated in the New Testament. That chapter is must reading, especially if you have a friend who keeps raising this particular objection.

The other section I liked, though it will frustrate some readers, was a Q & Q chapter — I’ve named it that because there were no answers, hence not Q & A — listing all of the various scenarios currently encountered as a result of the rapidly changing culture. (Though about ten common sample questions are dealt with.) I found this catalog of thorny issues and hot potatoes, most of which are not so hypothetical, to be useful in understanding the challenges Christians now face. But I also wished that chapter had appeared at the beginning of the book, and had in fact been the basis of what followed. To get that far in and realize how many practical situations need to be wrestled with was to feel that in its short 140 or so pages, the book had only begun to deal with the larger topic.

Yes, we can have compassion without compromising convictions, but doing so involves a softening our attitude and also earning the right to be heard, while maintaining respect for God’s best.


Read an excerpt from Compassion Without Compromise at Christianity 201


Compassion Without Compromise was provided to Thinking Out Loud by the blog review program of Baker Books.

 

November 29, 2014

The Religious Implications of Saying “ISIS Captured the Town”

Chaldean Sisters of the Sacred Heart Monastery in Mosul: Before and after ISIS destroyed it

Chaldean Sisters of the Sacred Heart Monastery in Mosul: Before and after ISIS destroyed it on Monday

From Independent Catholic News:

Since taking over Mosul on June 10, Aina News report that ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.

The following is the complete list of the Christian institutions in Mosul, grouped by denomination.

Syriac Catholic Church:

Syrian Catholic Diocese – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul
The Old Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul (The church goes back to the eighth century AD)
The New Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood
Church of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
Museum of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation – Muhandiseen Neighborhood
Church of the Virgin of Fatima – Faisaliah Neighborhood
Our Lady of Deliverance Chapel – Shifaa Neighborhood
The House of the Young Sisters of Jesus – Ras Al-Kour Neighborhood
Archbishop’s Palace Chapel – Dawasa Neighborhood

Syriac Orthodox Church:

Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese – Shurta Neighborhood
The Antiquarian Church of Saint Ahodeeni – Bab AlJadeed Neighborhood
Mar (Saint) Toma Church and cemetery, (the old Bishopric) – Khazraj Neighborhood
Church of The Immaculate (Castle) – Maidan Neighborhood
Church of The Immaculate – Shifaa Neighborhood
Mar (Saint) Aprim Church – Shurta Neighborhood
St. Joseph Church – The New Mosul Neighborhood

Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East:

Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East – Noor Neighborhood
Assyrian Church of the East, Dawasa Neighborhood
Church of the Virgin Mary (old rite) – Wihda Neighborhood

Chaldean Church of Babylon:

Chaldean Diocese – Shurta Neighborhood
Miskinta Church – Mayassa Neighborhood
The Antiquarian Church of Shimon alSafa – Mayassa Neighborhood
Church of Mar (Saint) Buthyoon – Shahar AlSouq Neighborhood
Church of St. Ephrem, Wady AlAin Neighborhood
Church of St. Paul – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
The Old Church of the Immaculate (with the bombed archdiocese)- Shifaa Neighborhood
Church of the Holy Spirit – Bakir Neighborhood
Church of the Virgin Mary – Drakziliya Neighborhood
Ancient Church of Saint Isaiah and Cemetery – Ras AlKour Neighborhood
Mother of Aid Church – Dawasa Neighborhood
The Antiquarian Church of St. George- Khazraj Neighborhood
St. George Monastery with Cemetery – Arab Neighborhood
Monastery of AlNasir (Victory) – Arab Neighborhood
Convent of the Chaldean Nuns – Mayassa Neighborhood
Monastery of St. Michael – Hawi Church Neighborhood
The Antiquarian Monastery of St. Elijah – Ghazlany Neighborhood

Armenian Orthodox Church:

Armenian Church – Maidan Neighborhood
The New Armenian Church – Wihda Neighborhood

Evangelical Presbyterian Church:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church – Mayassa Neighborhood

Latin Church:

Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and Convent of Katrina Siena Nuns – Sa’a Neighborhood
Convent of the Dominican Sisters, – Mosul AlJadeed Neighborhood
Convent of the Dominican Sisters (AlKilma Monastery) – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
House of Qasada AlRasouliya (Apostolic Aim) (Institute of St. John the Beloved)

Cemeteries:

Christian Cemetery in the Ekab Valley which contains a small chapel.

Source: Fides/Aina

November 20, 2014

What if…

Filed under: current events — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Huffington Religion Nov 18 2014

What if instead of a Jewish prayer book, that was a Bible or a hymnbook that you recognized in the picture?

What if instead of happening half a world away this took place in a Christian church a few blocks from your house?

What if instead of the victims having foreign-sounding surnames, the names were people that you knew personally?

…Religious terrorism always happens somewhere else, but what if…?

November 17, 2014

Bruxy Cavey | The Meeting House | The Rise of Isis | Part Three

Filed under: current events — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:43 am

The third and final message in this vital series.

.

November 16, 2014

Bruxy Cavey | The Meeting House | The Rise of ISIS | Part Two

We continue our weekend with The Meeting House Church in Greater Toronto. In part two, teaching pastor Bruxy Cavey spends time interviewing a spokesperson for a Toronto-area mosque.

Depending on the timing of its release on Monday, we might be able to put all three episodes back-to-back here. So subscribers should expect that Monday’s post might be late.

November 15, 2014

Bruxy Cavey | The Meeting House | The Rise of ISIS | Part One

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

Bruxy Cavey is the teaching pastor of The Meeting House, a Canadian church movement that meets in 15 theaters on Sunday mornings and is based in Oakville, a city just west of Toronto, Canada.  I believe this series of three messages is important for our time and that it was handled with a great deal of diplomacy. That’s why I want to include it here. Come back tomorrow for part two. Comments can be left at YouTube.

November 6, 2014

Philip Yancey on the Twilight of Grace

Changing societyIn my single digit years, I collected a box filled with low-tech, low-cost “magic” tricks, one of which consisted of two large die-cut pieces of cardboard in the shape of the letter ‘C.” One was red and one was blue, and as you held them side-by-side, if the red one was on the right it always appeared to be larger; but when you switched them, the blue one then appeared to be larger. The cutout pieces are identical in size, but the mind views the second one as larger when contrasted to the inside curve of the one before.

I always have this picture in my mind whenever I read something that purports to state that society is categorically getting worse. Haven’t people said that in past centuries also? Is the trajectory of society really in what pilots call a “graveyard spiral” or is redemption possible? Or perhaps do things simply go in cycles?

Philip Yancey’s book Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? (Zondervan) is in many ways a state-of-the-union address on the moral, ethical and spiritual condition of our world in general and the Church of Jesus Christ in particular. Ever the journalist, Yancey tracks down every lead while at the same time maintaining a subjectivity common to most of his other writings. So it’s our world and his pilgrimage; one man’s effort to document where the human race is heading and how it impacts on one writer in the Colorado mountains.

Vanishing GraceYou could easily read Vanishing Grace and conclude that these are the rantings of a writer who has finally reached his curmudgeon years. ‘Back in my day…’ you expect to hear him say; but Yancey is on to you and instead each section is scented with the slight aroma of the hope that no matter how dark, there are still lights and there is still The Light.

The subjectivity means that the book is rooted in an American perspective, but Yancey’s travels have made him very much a citizen of the world, and so the book is one part personal reflection, one part ripped from the pages of the newspaper and its online equivalent, and one part history lesson, borrowing from the best of both actual events and what has been expressed by poets, playwrights and novelists.

Some will find the book a little disjointed. In the introduction he states that he set out to write a book, but really wrote four books. In the afterword, he acknowledges that parts of the book previously appeared in print and online in a variety of forums. This is not a problem, as Vanishing Grace is intended for the thinking Christian who ought to be able to navigate the manner in which the material has been arranged.

Yancey writes,

The church works best as a separate force, a conscience to society that keeps itself at arms length from the state. The closer it gets, the less effectively it can challenge the surrounding culture and the more perilously it risks losing its central message. Jesus left his followers the command to make disciples from all nations. We have no charge to “Christianize” the United States or any other country — an impossible goal in any case.  (p. 253)

Just a few pages later he adds,

Several years ago a Muslim man said to me, “I have read the entire Koran and find in it no guidance on how Muslims should live as a minority in society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find in it no guidance on how Christians should live as a majority.” He pointed out that Islam seeks to unify religion and law, culture and politics. The courts enforce religious (sharia) law, and in a nation like Iran the mullahs, not the politicians, hold the real power. (p. 258)

Both the first and second halves of that excerpt are packed with food for thought, typical of what one finds in the pages of this book.

Is Vanishing Grace truly a sequel to What’s So Amazing About Grace? written nearly two decades earlier? The new book certainly brings a maturity to the subject, but I would contend that the earlier title is well-suited to new believers and house study groups, while this 2014 is more profitable for pastors, leaders, mature Christ-followers or anyone interested in how one Christian views the state of our changing world. One thing that both share however — and this is common to much of Yancey’s writing — is their acceptability to giving to someone outside your faith circle.

An advance copy of the book was provided by the Canadian marketing department of HarperCollins Christian Publishing.


Here’s a longer book excerpt that ran at Christianity 201 a few days ago:

Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” wrote John in the preface to his gospel.  The church has worked tirelessly on the truth part of that formula:  witness the church councils, creeds, volumes of theology, and denominational splits over minor points of doctrine.  I yearn for the church to compete just as hard in conveying what Paul calls the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace.  Often, it seems, we’re perceived more as guilt-dispensers than as grace-dispensers.

John records one close-up encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.  Knowing well the antipathy between the two groups, she marveled that a Jewish rabbi would even speak to her.  At one point she brought up one of the disputed points of doctrine:  Who had the proper place of worship, the Jews or the Samaritans?  Jesus deftly sidestepped the question and bore in on a far more important issue:  her unquenched thirst.  He offered her not judgment but a lasting solution to her guilt over an unsettled life.  To her and her alone he openly identified himself as Messiah and chose her as a grace-dispenser.  Her transformation captured the attention of the whole town, and Jesus stayed for two days among the “heretics,” attracting many converts.

That scene of Jesus and the Samaritan woman came up during a day I spent with the author Henri Nouwen at his home in Toronto.  He had just returned from San Francisco, where he spent a week in an AIDS clinic visiting patients who, in the days before antiretroviral drugs, faced a certain and agonizing death.  “I’m a priest, and as part of my job I listen to people’s stories,”  he told me.  “So I went up and down the ward asking the patients, most of them young men, if they wanted to talk.”

Nouwen went on to say that his prayers changed after that week.  As he listened to accounts of promiscuity and addiction and self-destructive behavior, he heard hints of a thirst for love that had never been quenched.  From then on he prayed, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people.  And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.”

That day with the gentle priest has stayed with me.  Now, whenever I encounter strident skeptics who mock my beliefs or people whose behavior I find offensive, I remind myself of Henri Nouwen’s prayer.  I ask God to keep me from rushing to judgment or bristling with self-defense.  Let me see them as thirsty people, I pray,  and teach me how best to present the Living Water.

(pp 27-29)


For an interview with the author, check out all six pages at this link to Leadership Journal

November 1, 2014

End of the Line for Mars Hill

The headline at Christianity Today said it all:

Mars Hill LocationsHere’s reaction from people you know, along with random comments from people you don’t on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that were posted in the hours immediately following the announcement:

Zach Hoag: In my opinion, this was the only right decision for a church organization with such a troubled history. It will allow for a truly new start, free from the arrogant defense of the old institution, and for the deep healing process to commence. 

Stephan Deliramich: This is crazy and sad. I appreciate Driscoll and have mixed feelings about his resignation, however this is such a lesson to all of us. A church cannot be built around one person unless that person is Jesus.

Warren Throckmorton: If anything has become clear over the last year, it is that the church was all about buildings and organization.

Rachel Held Evans: My heart breaks for those brothers and sisters from Seattle feeling wounded, exhausted, and disillusioned by the unraveling of their church. Even unhealthy churches have faithful, godly people working in them. I hope everyone will take the time they need to heal after this, and that the relationships that were truly life-giving will be preserved. Unfortunately, churches built around a pastor tend to rise and fall with that pastor. I hope the entire evangelical community will learn from this and re-prioritize accountability, character, respect for women and the marginalized, and I sincerely hope Mark Driscoll finds the help he needs…

Christopher Preston: Sad… But not so surprising… The pitfalls of building a church on personality rather than Christ?

Jim West: This is the major theological problem with megachurches: they have no idea what missionary minded churches are.  They do not distribute, they collect.  Rather than planting churches in various locations, they collect people like property and then boast of their multiple campuses and tens of thousands of members.  If megachurches understood Christianity they would plant churches and not establish satellites.  But whenever wealth comes the way of the greedy and controlling, it is only natural that they try to get as much of it as they can.  That is why Mars Hill has died: greed killed it. 

John Paul Ortiz: I’m actually sad to hear of Mars Hill’s demise. For all the people who now have to go church hopping, people now unemployed, hurt. etc.

Jacey Davidson: The mega-church/multi-site model is unsustainable as is it built upon certain gifted individuals that can’t help but assume inappropriate amounts of power and influence. God’s church is all about decentralization. The priesthood of all believers is a critical reformation doctrine. Multi-site is a relatively new invention of man and doesn’t seem to fit the biblical model of church government. It is pseudo-Presbyterian but lacks the proper accountability channels. 

Multisite Church SaleMatthew Wagner: Pray for Mars Hill and the 14000 Christians that called it home. Sad to see the church closing its doors. 

Spiritual Sounding Board: I’ve seen discussion [about] new “Mars Hill” churches. If these pastors failed to stand up to Driscoll and say he was unfit, they are unfit to lead. 

Drew Fanning: [referencing CT headline above] Describing a church as a human’s possession and using words like “empire” will have a terrible impact on Mars Hill’s congregation. We as christian contributors to social media, news, and even culture have to be so careful how we use any terminology. And more so than worry about the buildings Mars Hill owned, we should be worrying about the people that filled them.

Wenatchee The Hatchet:  In ten years Mark Driscoll managed to become pretty much everything he preached against from the pulpit circa 2000-2004.  How and why this happened may be explored and unpacked later on.  Whether the individual churches that have been constituents of Mars Hill can survive remains to be seen.  A number of them may and we’ll just have to see.  

Brian Shepard: Sucks hearing that Mars Hill Church is officially done.. but will be praying that from this ending, this moment also marks a new beginning. 

Bill Kinnon: If you need to shut it down mere weeks after the “founder” quits, was it ever really a church at all?

John Piper: Mars Hill Church will cease to be a single multisite church. May each congregation flourish in Christ!  

Click the image at the top of the article to read the details at Christianity Today.

 

October 27, 2014

Religious Persecution in America: The Gay Wedding Trap

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:33 pm

Whether it involves a wedding cake, printed invitations, or floral arrangements, everyone has heard a story involving a principled store owner who refused to do work for a gay wedding. But this story has a few twists. First, the proprietor, Barronelle Stutzman, had in fact done work for the couple previously; she was simply uncomfortable with doing the flowers for the actual wedding. Second, the couple didn’t file the complaint; if I understand correctly the state’s Attorney General heard about the situation on social media and filed its own charges.*

This video was produced in March by ADV, Alliance Defending Freedom. It’s newsworthy today after being shown hours ago in Nashville at a conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the owner of the flower store then greeted attendees in person.


*I hope I got that right; as a Canadian I don’t always get the nuances of U.S. law, but clearly there wasn’t the normal “plaintiff” that you usually find in stories like this.

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